Where Have You Been?

We’ve literally spent since February on the road. Pete and Liz travelled to Uganda, back to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana and then South Africa, just to drop off a safari vehicle for someone. They then hitched a flight from Johannesburg back to Nairobi then on to Abu Dhabi, Sydney and then Auckland. All that time Sharon was with their growing family in New Zealand.

Once Pete and Liz arrived, the three of us spent April through to July travelling throughout New Zealand speaking to schools, Rotary Clubs, churches, mens and womens meetings, talking about our work in East Africa.

liz n bub

Right now we’re in Sydney, but have spent the last few weeks in Canberra, Melbourne and Tasmania. The reason we went to Tasmania was to visit one of the kids from Kenya who we helped get to Australia, his father was a refugee here. So we kept our word and went all the way down. This Thursday we head to Queensland for a week. We’re looking forward to the warmth but won’t have much of a chance to relax as there’s plenty of speaking opportunities and catchups with people that we know.

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A big reason to return to Sydney was to rebuild our team which had depleted over the last few years. Because we work with volunteers, it’s very hard to keep our people. One day, we hope to employ people at this end of the world.

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So this trip has been part fundraiser, part family and friend catchup but pretty much all business. It’s been great but we’re looking forward to returning home to Kenya to our hard working team who have been doing a great job.

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Run, run as fast as you can

One of the few things my father left as a legacy was the love of running. I can’t remember what age we were made to start running but I remember being in middle school. I never entered competitions except for the Round The Bays in 1983, just after my father died.

I’m not a fast runner, now I do what I call a ‘granny shuffle’.

But I do like to run. At 46 though, the body doesn’t quite bounce back like it used to.

We’ve lived in Kenya since 2012 and I pretty much decided that running would go on the back burner. While we lived in Sydney I could jog along the streets and then the beach, it was great. I entered the City to Surf, the biggest funrun in the world where 80,000 people run the 14km trek up Heartbreak Hill to Bondi Beach. I ran it years ago.

My finish wasn't so enthusiastic.

My finish wasn’t so enthusiastic.

Nairobi is a little (okay a lot) different to run in. I can’t go for a run before 6.45am as it’s just getting light. At that time of the morning there are footpaths full of people making their way to work. There’s no ‘keeping to the left’ you just have to squeeze in between the crowds. I actually like to go later when there’s less people but it’s way too hot.

One of the biggest obstacles for safely running here is the footpaths, or lack of them. Around where we live there are a few footpaths but they have holes in them or are broken up in places. When you’re running you kind of feel like you’re in a cross country event. About 200 metres from our place you turn a corner to go down and up a hill. You would have to be insane to try and even run over that spot. A few times I’ve nearly twisted my ankle on loose rocks.

And then there are the trucks.

I don’t know what it is about trucks here but they are way overloaded and go slower than a snail up hill. They puff out this thick, dark smoke that doesn’t go in the air but out at face level. It’s gross.

This photo doesn't even show how bad the smoke from the trucks are.

This photo doesn’t even show how bad the smoke from the trucks are.

So for the first few years I didn’t bother running. I set up a home gym area but once you get up to 100 squats, situps, pushups and the like, what’s next?

We returned back from our overseas trip a month ago and I decided ‘what the heck, why not give running another go’. So I have.

I’m only a couple of weeks into it, and amping up the anti to see if my foot can handle a run three times a week. I’ve a Morton’s Neuroma under my right foot which plays up whenever it feels like it. It’s like having a hot, sharp poker up through your foot. In 2011 and 2012 I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. In 2012 the last day was excruciating because my foot played up so much. I just couldn’t wait to get down.

My faithful runners.

My faithful runners.

On March 8th, Lizzie and I will be running 10km’s in ‘The First Lady’s Half Marathon’ around Nairobi. I really want to get up to a half marathon status but not sure if my foot would make it. One of my dreams is to run in the Lewa Marathon through an animal conservancy. Here’s hoping I can do it by next year.

So why do I run?

I run because I like getting out there with my headphones on and not worry about all of the world’s problems. I need to run to keep myself fit. When I run I drink a lot more water than if I sit in front of a computer all day. I run because I can’t afford to go to a gym.

And I run because I like it.

Being Home

We’ve been back in Nairobi for 5 days after being away for 2 months. Next week I’ll write about how we managed to do that trip, but this week I thought I’d focus on what it’s like being home.

After 2 years of settling in Nairobi, it really is home. When we were away we felt we didn’t fit in anywhere. Here, things are familiar and to some extent comfortable. You don’t have to explain the challenges of living here to people who don’t understand, no matter how you tell them. No words can describe the sights, sound and smell of Nairobi.

In 8 weeks we had 3 days 'holiday'

In 8 weeks we had 3 days ‘holiday’

It’s nice not to have to live out of a suitcase. We went with 2, picked up another one in Sydney (marketing material) and came back with 6. Yes, 6 suitcases. They were filled with clothes and tools for the next 2 years of work. Most of the time we travelled from town to town with just one big suitcase and a small one. Now I am overwhelmed at how much ‘stuff’ we actually have in our apartment. We’ve spent months travelling with the basics. We got into a routine and we loved it. Now all I see is the things at home that need dusting. Some of the belongings I wonder why we have them. Why did I spend money on certain things? I am sure I will adjust but right now I’m kind of craving the simple life.

I haven’t cooked for over 2 months. We were so spoilt when we were away and now I actually have to find food for the family. I had really hoped to buy a BBQ but didn’t have the weight allowance. We love barbecues, there’s nothing like it. When we lived in Sydney we pretty much had them every night. Before we left there was just Liz and I because Pete was in Ethiopia, so we used whatever we had in the house. When we returned our cupboards were literally bare. Thankfully, our friends who had borrowed our car got us some food for a couple of days. We’ve gone through three shopping lists in as many days, as we figure out what we need and don’t have. We are reminded how convenient it was back in Australia where everything you needed was in the supermarket at the same time. Here, it’s pot luck. Pete’s not a happy camper because he can’t get the peanut butter brand he likes. I think he will survive.

Pavlova - the reason we got fat

Pavlova – the reason we got fat

I haven’t driven since coming back. Not that I don’t want to, but I haven’t needed to. Today is our first ‘official’ day back at work, so Pete has been home. The traffic hasn’t changed. The car needs some engine work on it and Pete’s motorbike comes out of the garage after taking 3 months to get it fixed. We are reminded once more to forget going on the roads after 4pm as it’s just gridlocked. I’m saving myself the pain of a 90 minute drive into town tomorrow (9km’s) to pick up a certificate by paying our motorbike driver $6. I’m not silly, I know the best way to get things done here!

This IS NOT a road in Nairobi

This IS NOT a road in Nairobi

My brain is in a fuzz. I thought at first it was the jetlag, but we beat that by going out for a 45 minute walk each day to lose the kilos we’ve put on. It wasn’t until last night that I clicked on what the problem really was. For months we’ve been used to the sun going down and getting dark about 8.45pm. It took us 6 weeks to get used to that, now it’s pitch dark by 7pm. I remember when we first came in 2012 we went through the same thing. I don’t like it and I will miss the option of getting out there after dinner and going out.

You can't get gluten free hamburger buns in Kenya

You can’t get gluten free hamburger buns in Kenya

At the end of it all, we chose to come and live here, so we have to get used to it all again. Trying to figure out Swahili, the locking of the car doors, the security checks and the unproductiveness of certain areas, not being able to get stuff where and when we want to.

But if we look at what we don’t have, we will miss out on some very cool things here. The ultra cheap fruit and veges which we can buy on the side of the road. Great friends we’ve made. Eating out at a reasonable price. Coffees Pete can afford.

No doubt we’ll do what everyone else does and ease back into life here again. Nairobi is where we are meant to be – it is home.

On Safari To The Ends Of The Earth

We have just finished 7 flights in 5 days – and yes we are exhausted.

Here’s the lowdown on what it was like. Safari is the Kiswahili word for a trip, so we had a safari to New Zealand.

Pete with his first Burger King in 2 years.

Pete with his first Burger King in 2 years.

To get the cheapest flights we had to jump around the globe, travel on night flights and have a few layovers. First stop – Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is only an hours flight away, but unfortunately you still have to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight and you could get to the airport in an hour, or three hours. Because we had to be on there by 3am (yes, that’s in the wee hours of the morning), we had arranged for our taxi to pick us up at 2.15.

Dubai at night.

Dubai at night.

He didn’t come. Pete called Patrick who said it wasn’t Sunday morning, that was tomorrow. No matter what Pete said, Patrick was not getting out of bed. It’s not like you can ring up a taxi company and call one in. Thankfully our boarder, Racquel, had just got home with her friend and she called her taxi guy ‘Tim’. Tim came to the rescue.

JKIA (the airport) is pretty easy to get through, especially at 3am. No one is allowed in unless they have a ticket. Bags are scanned first thing, then through to the ticket pickup, just like at any other place.

Liz inside the mall, not really interested in the dinosaur.

Liz inside the mall, not really interested in the dinosaur.

Anything seems long when it’s early in the morning, especially waiting to get onto the plane.

Once up, it’s down again pretty fast.

Without sounding biased, our airport is way better than the one at Addis. Except for one thing – they have seats like sunbeds which you can stretch out on.

All of our flights were relatively short, we spent more time in airports than anything.

The flight to Dubai is only 5 hours and we went with Jet Airways (India). We were in Dubai for just under 24 hours. Normally we stay at our mates apartment which overlooks the Dubai Marina, but it wasn’t available this time. So we stayed at a super cheap (for Dubai) place called Eureka Hotel in Deira. I’d read the reviews and was expecting a dump, it is not too bad actually. However, I always find that there are hidden costs not shown on websites like booking.com. The good thing is that it was only one train stop from the Deira City Centre (mall).

Some of the light show in Dubai.

Some of the light show in Dubai.

We first went to the Dubai Mall at night to suss out the price of some camera gear and also see the outdoor light show. Last time we watched this Pete dropped his phone into the harbour, no such thing this time!

Before we caught the plane the next afternoon we visited for the first time the Deira City Centre. We use trains as much as possible in Dubai because they are super cheap and run every 3-5 minutes. The coolest thing about Dubai is that you can walk around freely at night, not something we get to do in Nairobi.

The next hop jump flights were through Mumbai (2 hours) with a 2 hour layover, before heading to Singapore. Finally all of the stores at Mumbai have been outfitted but beyond the good coffee at Costa, it’s just a pitstop. I still couldn’t see a Forex so we paid with US dollars so in your mind you have to know how much change you should be getting so you don’t get ripped off.

The sunrise coming into Melbourne.

The sunrise coming into Melbourne.

We tried as much as possible to sleep during the 5 hours to Singapore but it just didn’t happen for anyone except Liz. I was shattered by this point and so was Pete. What was meant to be a day of sightseeing didn’t happen for two reasons:

  1. We were stuffed.
  2. It was bucketing down with rain.

Instead we crashed at our cousins house for the afternoon and slept for 3 hours. It’s always nice to have a shower after all those hours and even better to sleep in a bed.

Back at Changi Airport we took Pete to the different sites in it. Of course there’s the mandatory visit to the Butterfly House and various rooftop gardens.

While we had booked with Emirates, they code share with Qantas. I’m not sure why they do it, but Emirates is WAY better than Qantas. Qantas always have the worst food for coeliacs but on the upside, I had two seats to myself.

We stopped in Melbourne long enough to get our bags, go through customs (Ebola free) and then line up for another 45 minutes to get back through security.

Pete showing James from Chicken Run in Dee Why photos on his phone.

Pete showing James from Chicken Run in Dee Why photos on his phone.

Getting on a plane was the last thing on our minds but in 2 days time, we did the last haul – to Auckland. This is what it was all about, getting to see our youngest daughter and be there for her wedding in a few weeks.

Now, the bags are packed away. No more need for the neck thingy that supports you when you sleep. No more lugging around heavy bags. No more declaration forms to complete. No more airport or plane hotels.

It’s over – for 7 weeks anyway!

My Confession

I’m not Catholic, but I think there’s something healthy about confessing something. It may not change the situation but you feel unburdened and hopefully get a fresh start.

I am jealous. Not even a small amount, I mean jealous with a capital J.

 

1. The thing I’m really jealous of is that people have the capacity to earn money.

Gone are the days when we could redecorate someone’s house, paint a building or do a photo shoot to get some extra cash or travel overseas with. I really miss those days. Sure, it may not seem much to you, but to both Pete and I it’s a huge thing.

Instead we have become professional beggars, accosting friends and family around the world for donations to live off and do our work in East Africa.

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Even people here have that one on us. Sure, there is a huge unemployment rate but I really admire the people who even have a stall on the side of the road selling foodstuffs.

There is something about earning a good dollar. A friend who is a trained counsellor told me that job satisfaction is the top priority for people in their 40’s and 50’ and I can identify with that. However, the pay also makes it worth it.

Actually, it’s not about making money, but having the freedom to do so.

I think that’s like a lot of people here who have far less options than us right now. They feel like their hands are tied and unlike us they don’t have hope nor a good circle of supporters who are doing life with them. So, although I hate this feeling, I’m thankful for what we’ve had, do have and will have.

I am thankful for every single person who partners with us. This whole thing makes us rely on God and to be honest, it doesn’t get any easier. But if I can trust God to save me, I can trust Him to take care of us each day.

 

2. I get jealous of photos people put up of the beach.

We lived in Sydney for 11 years and loved every moment of it. For the first two years I would wake up and say ‘another day in paradise’. Not sure what happened after that but we really, really enjoyed it. I loved going for a run most days and then spending 30 minutes at the beach – a 4 minute walk away. If there’s anything I miss, it’s being able to get out the door and go for a good walk. Here it’s a high risk sport going for a run by the road. In our first week here we almost got hit by a person pretending they could drive. I’ve never seen a driver with such large eyes.

beachOur nearest beach is a 9 hour drive – and not an easy drive either.

There’s a place we drive by that has this large unused field lined with trees and Pete would say in our early days here ‘I’m just imagining that there is a beach behind those trees’.

This past week we finally got a coffee table and we indulged in spending $20 on this absolutely beautiful canoe shaped bowl. We bought it specifically to put in it shells we had bought from Hawaii (my favourite holiday destination) which have been packed for the last 12 months. I look at them with fond memories and yes, I’ve even put one up to my ear to hear the ocean.

That’s what it’s about though – gratefulness. We’ve travelled all around the world, have seen amazing things and met some incredible people. I’ve someone working in our office who has never been out of the country and until a few months ago hadn’t been to a town only 2 hours away.

It’s about keeping things in perspective.

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3. I get jealous that you get Mainland Cheese.

Pathetic I know, but man does it taste good. I mean, it’s creamy, soft and melts on toasted sandwiches.  Even when we lived in Sydney you could buy Mainland Cheese there. No wonder I couldn’t keep the weight off!

There are several times I wish people could bring back real cheese in their suitcase. The cheese here just doesn’t taste like anything. Apparently you have to leave it in the fridge for a couple of months to get anything decent out of it.

I long for the days of macaroni cheese, toasted sandwiches and a decent cheese sauce over the cauliflower. What’s the point of having cauliflower anyway if you can’t have cheese sauce!

Actually you can buy New Zealand cheese here, for $30 a kilo. Even then I’m not totally convinced that it’s the real deal. Liz is in NZ and told me she had nachos the other night with stacks of cheese on it. She asked my sister for a whole pile of cheese. Proof that it’s not just me!

However, I have found an okay Camembert cheese for the rice crackers people have sent us. Unfortunately it has to be a special treat every few months, which is probably good for my waistline.

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4. I get jealous of those overseas photos on Facebook

Actually that’s a total lie. I don’t at all. It’s the same when people put up photos of their latest car, clothes or anything very cool. Some people feel bad that they get these things while we are ‘giving it all up to live in Africa’. Not at all. I love to celebrate every single adventure people are having.

We are so blessed to be able to do what we do and yet live in an online world that allows us to live with a global family. Please, please, please keep putting up those updates and photos of your adventures. There’s enough sadness in the world and we need to learn to celebrate what and when we can with those that we care about.

If I can say anything, it would be to get out of your comfort zone and go on an adventure.

I have a friend who is a little older than me who is travelling through Europe and she looks like she is having an absolute ball. I love seeing her smiling face enjoying the sites, people and ice cream sundaes. I love the fact that after all these years she is taking a well deserved holiday.

You see, jealousy can be a driving force to eat you up about what you don’t have or it can be an opportunity to enjoy what you actually do have. If I spend all my time whinging ‘I don’t have this, I don’t have that’ it takes my focus off the joy of the moment and appreciating what we do have.

Sure, I’d give my right arm to get on a plane and shoot to Dubai for the weekend, who wouldn’t. We could do that and not eat for two months – that’s not exactly a winning situation. Or, I can enthusiastically look forward to our 6 visitors this week, knowing we have a house big enough for them all. It’s probably the first time in our lives that we’ve had a place big enough that people don’t have to sleep on the floor when they come. Now that’s something to be happy about.

When we lived in Sydney one of our kids (who will remain nameless but it begins with H) would always complain about living in a ghetto – Dee Why. We would remind her that our 2 bedroom apartment rental was a half a million dollar ‘ghetto’. After taking her on her first trip to Africa she really saw the meaning of the word and we didn’t hear a peep out of her about it from that time on.

People tell me that I am so lucky doing what we do. But let’s hear it people – what are you jealous of?

I Am A Fool

Well, that’s what some of our friends and family think of us anyway. Imagine, why would or should we leave the lovely Northern Beaches of Sydney? We had a great lifestyle, had the ability to earn good money, went to one of the biggest churches in the city and lived a 4 minute walk from the beach.

In anyones mind moving to Nairobi which has all the opposite of the above is the most craziest idea ever.

Here, we’re not allowed to make money, the nearest beach is 9 hours away and getting into  a new church is hard work. The roads are so rough I end up with headaches from a sore neck.

Recently we wrote to our friends seeking their financial support, for a simple $10 per month. Most don’t get back to us but I’m really surprised who decided to get behind us.

I know that lots of people think we’re totally insane being here and they are probably right. Who in their right mind would in the prime of their money making years turn their backs on everything comfortable.

But comfortable isn’t us. A kiwi friend who has studied counseling says that job satisfaction is the main priority of those in their 40’s and 50’s. We can attest to that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making money though. In fact, it’s one of the main things we miss – the capability to earn. Both of us, but especially Pete is a very hard worker and there is great security in bringing in your own income, it feels good too.

Contrary to what people think, I’m more concerned with what God thinks.

There’s this very cool scripture that says ‘He who wins souls is wise’ (Prov 11.30). We’re not out here bashing people with the Bible, we’re working with young people and showing them the love of God. But it’s not just young people who need this revelation, it’s everyone. We’re looking at joining a Rotary Club. Mainly it’s to meet new people, but it also gives us an opportunity to be God’s representatives to the rather wealthy people who attend.

Are we fools? Maybe, maybe not, but as long as the money comes in we’re staying. If we really wanted to make money here we could do it but that would have to be our focus and not young people. Yep, we’ll make it to the beach one day and will love every minute of it.

But true wisdom is leaving a legacy for the next generation. And that’s the plan Stan for the wildcreanberries!

Life as a Teacher

I really enjoy teaching. Whether it’s one on one or in a classroom.

I actually wanted to become a teacher but became a youth worker instead. Where we lived the nearest university was at least an hour away. I was married and there was no way I was leaving my husband just to do what I wanted. Then the kids came along and it never happened.

I home schooled our girls and there were a few extra bodies along the way. Now looking back I would do things differently but at the time you do the best that you can. When we moved to Australia in 2002, I gave up the schooling and the youth work as we needed the money and Sydney was way more expensive than Christchurch to live in.

As I’m writing this I’m overseeing 15 students who have completed a 6 week business skills class that I’ve taught. These are young men who only a short while ago where living on the streets of Nairobi. They didn’t finish primary school, but they could be great businessmen if they believe in themselves.

It’s kind of weird how everything from the past 25 years happens just for that moment. I mean, we moved to Aussie, I ended up working in a high school and then went on to working for a university. I got my MBA (Masters of Business Administration) and we started our work in Africa. I’m tutoring kids here and teaching classes. In the next 5 years we’re looking at building a boarding school.

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I didn’t even finish high school.

I dropped out at just before my final year. In those days you just walked into a job, not like now.

But I’ve also become the student again.

Each Monday I have Kiswahili lessons with Judy, she’s a whizz at languages, I’m not. I’ve taught English as a second language and decided I’d much rather be a teacher than a student. I’m envious of these Kenyan kids, they have to learn at least 2 languages throughout their school life.

I’m 44 and yet feel like a 4 year old trying to learn Kiswahili.

I’ve heard people say that you can never stop learning. Heck, move to a country like Kenya and then you have the right to say that. I was wanting to get my Masters in Development some time in the future, but every day here in Kenya is a classroom.

Society here is our teacher and she’s not always nice or patient.

Sometimes I don’t want to hear what she is saying and some times I just don’t care. Sometimes I just want to go to a movie and forget that I’m in Africa.

The fact is though that we are here and we do have to learn. As someone told us ‘Coming to Africa shows you what’s really inside of you, how big a capacity you have’. I thought I was a big person inside but discovered that I’m not. I’m too judgemental, opinionated, narrow-minded and set in my own ways – thank you very much!!

While life is a schoolroom, we have to be willing to learn.

I’m always telling my students that attitude determines altitude, now I have to take my own medicine. While the medicine might not taste great, it is good for us.